Natxo Gonzalez first appeared on the Big Wave Tour in 2015 at just 18 years old. Now in his second year competing, the surfer from Basque Country, Spain is undoubtedly armed with more confidence.
There's no denying that Gonzalez's relationship with Nazaré runs deep (having grown up about an 8 hour drive away) -- but that was proven tenfold at this year's Nazare Challenge when he earned the first perfect 10 in the event's history. Getting barreled at Nazaré is an extremely rare thing and Gonzalez was able to pull it off during a contest. The wave saw him take home the Most Committed Award.
With the 2019 Big Wave Awards coming up in April, Gonzalez submitted it for a Ride of the Year Entry - filmed by Jon Aspuru.
The World Surf League: Can you walk us through the morning of the Nazaré Challenge? How did you prepare?
Natxo Gonzalez: I prepared for six months this season - both physically and mentally. I was preparing for both the Big Wave Tour and the big wave season in Nazaré. So I was all around Europe and Hawaii. I know Nazaré really well. I've surfed a lot there and I know the beach pretty well. My goal was to do well during the Nazaré contest.
I tried to show up as relaxed as possible with just good thoughts. We knew it was going to be big. On the contest day we woke up and conditions were clean, off shore winds with big waves. It was sunny out. It was a perfect day. It was the best I've ever seen Nazaré.
Were you nervous going into it?
I went with my friends to Nazaré the day before. We drove all the way from Basque country to Portugal. I have a lot of great memories with all of them in the car. We were laughing a ton which helped relieve the pressure of it all. We tried to have fun and not think about the contest all day.
Who was in the water with you?
It was a contest day so the safety team there was amazing. Jet skis were everywhere so I felt super comfortable paddling out. The vibes were really good with the other surfers. We were all cheering for each other … there was no hassling.
What was going through your head when you were paddling out?
When this particular wave appeared I knew it was going to be a bomb. I knew that if I was in the right place, I could make a big barrel. No one did it before so sometimes you think it's impossible but I just tried to be in the right position. My goal was to make a barrel. When this wave appeared I knew it was the one.
What was special about this wave?
It was a combination of it all - the safety team, my friends, the conditions. When this wave appeared there were doubts going through my head. I thought maybe this is too crazy, maybe I'm too deep or too late. But I had to try and that's what I did. I pulled into the barrel and I remember I took a high line. To come out of it there was a big chandelier in the barrel. But I made it and it was the best day of my life. I straight up cried.
How does this wave rank in terms of other waves that you've ridden at Nazaré?
I got barreled, which is really rare at Nazaré. It's hard to be in the right position. I got lucky. I had it in my head that I wanted to push the limits so that's what I did.
Did you know right away that you wanted to submit it for Ride of the Year?
They gave me a perfect 10 for that wave during the Nazare Challenge, so I knew it was a good one. Once I watched the clip I knew I wanted to submit it for the Big Wave Awards. Every year, I always send a few in but this one is probably my best. I'm so stoked.
Catch up on all the entries at Worldsurfleague.com/bigwaveawards and watch the 2019 WSL Big Wave Awards live on Worldsurfleague.com, App and Facebook.